This is it

First you have to recognize that what happened to you, either as a child or maybe later, affects the way you treat other people, particularly your own children. Then you have to accept that even though you believe you are not doing what was done to you, even working against it, you emanate it in yourself and how you are in the world. For most people, most of the time, these are positive things. We were brought up to know good from bad and to hold dear moral values which we demonstrate and inculcate in our children, and even those around us. We are attracted to people who espouse and demonstrate their beliefs are like our own.
But let’s face it, it isn’t so clean and nice as that
If you were brought up to believe that you were lazy or stupid, and you hated your parents for portraying you in that way, you might be very aware of not letting that affect the way you bring up your own children, or treat your loved ones, but equally, you probably spent your whole life over-working in order not to appear lazy, or being addended to knowledge in order not to seem stupid. Your children begin by seeing you as the perfect role model, (though it’s obviously all down hill from day one), but your diligence and intelligence become aspirations for them. And you do judge them in the way you were judged, even if you try not to.
In truth, most of the gnarled and warped traits which are subliminal, the ones you want not to present, have much more negative effects on those around you, and they may never be comfortable with the thing they think or feel you want them to be, even if you actually don’t want them to be that.
To be fair to your parents, and the generation that they represent, they themselves were not treated well, and in most cases, suffered privations and abuses which were considered perfectly acceptable. They were almost all slapped or worse, without any claim to being mis-treated. They were expected to be seen and not heard, to be made to do work at a young age, to be given less physical love than they needed and so many more negative things, and they passed on much of this without change, because it was ‘the norm’ for them.
What about if you were deserted or ignored and left to fend for yourself in growing up? Did you achieve despite the lack of support, and as a consequence, expect others to do the same, or did you suffer for the lack of support and do you over-protect others and try to compensate? How many people actually believe that their children have it too easy and that the protection of this generation will lead to less independence and less achievement? How many others believe that the pressures to achieve and succeed have never been so intense as they are now, and that the relative wealth of society means that a net of secure love and material security should be installed under the tightrope they are walking? I think that if you survived an upbringing that was not positive, you will have to resolve in yourself the conflict between wanting it to have been OK, and so accepting its hardships as ‘acceptable’, and wanting to recognize its inadequacy and to avoid such suffering in others.
You want everyone to fulfill their potential. You reinforce their behaviour that is goal-directed and you recognize their achievements, but do you set an impossibly high bar for them because you never felt good enough yourself? Do you even recognize achievements that are not among your own goals? Worse, do you subliminally re-iterate the messages you were given about not being good enough?


Feline blues and browns

I woke at six and felt a level of unattributable anxiety which forced the dim morning onto me. It might be the minor aches of middle age, or one of those new fantasies of death which creep into the day, or it might be the future’s vacuity rattling my cage. Whichever, there is no easy way to turn over and doze. The best is not to dwell in that space, but to turn on the tablet and read. Which I did for half an hour before the head cleared. Thanks Kevin Barry. It reminds me that you write your best work at this time of the morning in a dream-like state before speaking, reading, Facebooking or eating. Brave or slavish? Who cares if the art is there.
What happened to languor? And where did the urge to rise and meet the challenges of the day retreat to? These days, this February, it is harder than ever to see the hours ahead as full of promise. There’s a kiln full of glazing to do. They’re coming to replace the front door today too, unless they’re doing what seems fashionable again this year and not turning up. It’s a day for the gym and maybe a trip to the market, and yes, to drop into the opticians to see if they can help me because I’ve got a screw loose. There’s a host of possibilities, none of which shines on me, but it is time to get up and out and just face the day – never mind fucking seizing it.
The putrid smell hit me as soon as I opened the kitchen door. The cat was whining for his breakfast and yet the smell suggested he’d vomited on the floor somewhere. That wasn’t altogether a unique occurrence and since the fat animal has no control over his eating habits, a product of desertion as a kitten, he is apt to eat till he’s sick. It doesn’t mean that he’s off his food either, becoming more hungry as a result of evacuating his stomach. I fed him his biscuit and a third of a pouch of whiskers stinking tuna which at least masked the smell a little.
But this smell somehow transcended the smell one might expect from regurgitated food, which isn’t particularly odourous, and it was reminiscent of something more anal. And there it was, a huge pile of shit in the corner of the kitchen floor, over by the bread bin. OK, so he’s kept to the tiled area, rather than going behind the sofa, which wouldn’t be a first, but that was not going to wash as an apology.
Fifteen is supposed to be 105, if cat years are one seventh of human years. Fifteen, in my book, is long enough. The cat is going senile, becoming unpredictable, and while he spent his first fourteen years being put out every night to hunt or sleep in a warm spot somewhere, he’s started being allowed to stay indoors. It’s been an insidious thing, initially because the weather made opening the back door almost impossible, and then because it was deemed kind to him, respectful of his age.
Which brings us to the nub of this issue. Empathy. In my view, pets are chosen as a service to people, and empathy should be reserved for humankind. Note the definition presented by

Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. Empathy is known to increase prosocial (helping) behaviors.

Do you see any mention of cats there? Do we know any cats with shoes? And how do people feel what cats are feeling?

Here’s another one:
Anthropomorphism: The attributing of human characteristics and purposes to inanimate objects, animals, plants, or other natural phenomena, or to God.

In my book, we choose to own pets to make us happy or relaxed or to push us to get out more or whatever, and they fulfill that role well. Some even clock up a reputation for devotion which, in human terms, deserves a gentle, cared-for retirement. In fact, this cat was rescued in the first place, so the succour started on day one.
I certainly see that, in the case of a dog, anthropomorphic empathy makes some sense, given their loving devotion and unqualified commitment. But this cat has wrecked carpets, scratched eyeballs, and in recent memory, bitten through my finger, causing some vile infection. The fat old fucker who shat on the kitchen floor can’t have wanted to do that there. Cats are private about their shitting. In fact, I can’t say I’ve found many cat turds in the garden in the last fifteen years. But in this case, someone (and there are only two of us here) chose to empathise with the cat last night, when the rain was lashing the windows and the wind was lifting stones, and left him indoors. It has become a habit since the storms, since Cambodia, and he has had the run of the place every night, so long as he gets out during the evening for a crap, which last night he clearly didn’t, or if he did, he has mighty bowels to produce about half a kilo again during the night.

And here we are, trying to equate empathy with the cat’s useful life, his level of suffering through old age, when his habits, not to mention his aggressive neediness are repulsive. There’s a chorus of ‘aahhs’ from the cat lovers cries of ‘shame on you’ from those holier than I who don’t have to live with this animal.

Being home

I was just back from another world and floating into the fog, and when the air cleared, I was submerged in work. The work is mechanistic and impersonal, but needs attention. More attention than I have to spare. The other world still held me and re-entry was hard. Still, January could be far worse with nothing happening. Work flows in, time passes and finally the mornings are bright. It’s probably better that way. The days pass more quickly and there’s a sense of purpose, even when the purpose is meaningless – other than making a crust.
I read about impending doom with a world teetering on the brink of financial ruin. I read about the Irish economic bubble (deja vu). That would be the sort of bubble which forms in the mouth of a rotting corpse perhaps. Ah, no! Come on now! Sure, we only just pulled ourselves out of a six year recession by dint of diligent hard work and austerity. Doesn’t that word make you think of monks? I’ve stared in the faces of the Irish workers and seen few monastic features. We seem to be fine. We’re cloaked in local comforts, local worries. We examine ourselves for blemishes and they are there. We examine the world around us for warts, and sure, they’re there too – but it’s all within the comfortable space we occupy. We don’t want to see anything bigger.
And that other world is not what it seemed, all exotica and mystery. It’s dry and hard and hungry. It’s enveloped in subjugation. They aren’t insulated from the world. In fact, they’re more encroached by it than we are, in the monastery here. Get a grip and take the heat of the kitchen. Focus on what’s in front of you and not on what you left behind. Did the astronauts look at the world at a distance once they climbed out of the capsule? Nope. They got wet in the Pacific or wherever.